Bullying in our Schools: A Counselor Speaks and Provides Valuable Resources for Parents

We spent a week talking about bullying. We talked to parents and to kids. We talked about bullying in school and online. We offered suggestions for dealing with bullying. Today we finish out our week-long bullying discussion by speaking to a middle school counselor to get a professional perspective on the prevalence and prevention of this problem. Be sure to check out the resource list at the end of the post and you can keep the conversation going on our Facebook page after we’ve finished.

WHAT GRADES DO YOU WORK WITH?
I’m in a middle school, so it’s 6th-8th grades.

DO YOU SEE MANY STUDENTS IN BULLYING RELATED SITUATIONS?
I’d say I probably deal with 3 or 4 legitimate cases of bullying per school year.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘LEGITIMATE’ CASES?
A lot of the time things are brought before me, or I’m called by a teacher or a parent to deal with an issue that is, at first, described as a “bullying” situation. A lot of the time it is a misunderstanding between two parties, or it’s been explained in a confusing manner to the authority figure in the situation, and then gets relayed to me as something that it’s really not.

HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO DISCERN WHAT IS AN ISNT A LEGITIMATE CASE OF BULLYING?
Well, for starters I talk to all of the involved parties. I’ll talk to the students alone. I’ll talk to them together if possible. I’ll talk to teachers, aides, witnesses, parents, administrators, whoever needs to get involved to get to the bottom of the situation. We have a policy in school, the HIB policy. It stands for Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying. When something is brought to my attention, I have a set amount of time in which I have to acknowledge and address it. All reports have to be investigated! I have a set amount of time in which to investigate. It’s at that point that I’m usually talking to the kids and so forth. Some of the time I find out fairly early on that it doesn’t meet the criteria outlined in the policy. And then sometimes it does, and that’s a whole different ball game.

SO, WHAT IS THE CRITERIA? WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR IT TO ACTUALLY BE CONSIDERED BULLYING?
It’s pretty specific but basically there has to be a reasonable belief of intent, that someone is motivated by a specific outcome to do what it is they are being accused of, and it has to be something that causes disruption or interference of regular school activities, or infringes on the rights of other students.

AND YOU ONLY SEE A FEW OF THESE IN A SCHOOL YEAR?
Typically, yes. We get kids fighting, arguing, issues on the bus, etc. but the cases of bullying have to be addressed under this policy, and we don’t see a whole lot if it, not as many as other schools that I am familiar with. Of course, even if you see 4 or 5 in a year, that’s still 4 or 5 too many. And bullying is absolutely a very serious issue at this age. This is age where kids are really finding out who they are and what they are all about. It’s so easy for them to get down on themselves to begin with. They are going through a tremendous amount of physical and emotional changes anyway, and are really unsure of a lot of things. To have someone come along and shine a light on those very things that you’re already feeling insecure about can be heartbreaking, just crippling for some kids. And that can lead down a very nasty road. So when I say that only 4 or so meet the criteria to go through the entire process of the bullying policy, that’s not to say that I don’t get a lot of kids who come in feeling bad because so and so said something about me or things of that nature, but it’s not necessarily an ongoing event nor is it done in a premeditated manner.

WE ACTUALLY DID INTERVIEWS WITH A  TEEN GIRL AND A TEEN BOY’S PERSPECTIVE EARLIER THIS WEEK ABOUT BULLYING. DO YOU SEE MORE GIRLS OR BOYS FOR STUFF LIKE THIS?
I think it’s about the same. I see more boys because their teachers send them in to talk or they were fighting outside and got sent down. As for girls, they are much more inclined to come to me on their own.

DO YOU SEE IT MORE IN A CERTAIN AGE GROUP?
Actually no, not for this. I see every grade for something a little different. 6th graders with adjustment stuff. 8th graders with high school readiness stuff. 7th graders with whatever is the current “issue” of the moment. But for disciplinary issues or for victim’s counseling, that is pretty well dispersed.

counselorbully2HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A SCHOOL COUNSELOR?
It’s been about 10 years if you count the internship I did in school within the same setting.

DO YOU SEE A TREND OF MORE OR LESS BULLYING?
Impossible to say. I am asked this all the time actually. The thing is, when we were kids, they didn’t call it bullying. Plus, people didn’t talk so freely about this stuff so it was probably underreported. And everything is so wide open now. Information is everywhere. Very little happens nowadays that everyone doesn’t know about. Plus when we were young if you wanted to fight someone or call them names, you walked up to them after school and just did it. Or you set it up in advance. I find that so bizarre now. What did we used to say?

I THINK WE USED TO SAY “I OFFER YOU OUT” OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT- AS IN, I AM OFFERING YOU THE CHANCE TO FIGHT ME SO MEET ME OUTSIDE AT SUCH AND SUCH A TIME. IT SOUNDS SO RIDICULOUS NOW.
It does. And what I was thinking of with that was that we don’t do that anymore. Now we post it on Facebook or we tweet about someone, or we screenshot people’s stuff and send it to other people. And that is what I see a lot of, a lot of he said, she said, she put a mean picture of me on Instagram kind of stuff.

SO DO YOU THINK IT IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM THAT WE ARE FACING TODAY?
Well, I think it’s important no matter what. Whether it’s real or perceived, it’s just a fact that over the last several years, bullying has received a massive surge in attention, and has emerged as a very serious problem in and out of schools. And in those cases where there is actually bullying going on, then it is crucial that it is swiftly and seriously addressed. We have seen a multitude of studies that show all sorts of negative future ramifications for kids who are bullied.

SO WHAT DOES A KID DO IF THEY FEEL LIKE THEY ARE BEING BULLIED? HOW ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE?
They’re not. I mean, it’s not on them to have to decide if it’s a HIB case or not. If they feel uncomfortable, if they feel threatened, if they are scared or unsure, they need to bring it to our attention! It’s up to us to sort out the particulars, but either way, we’re here to help them with whatever it turns out to be!

WHAT KIND OF RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARENTS IF THEY FEEL LIKE THERE CHILD IS BEING BULLIED AND HOW WOULD THEY GO ABOUT GETTING THOSE?
Well, a lot of the resources that I give to parents when they call me are those for here in New Jersey. The policies and procedures vary from state to state. But, there are some that are fairly standard and universal. I can provide those for you. And of course there’s always Google. Simply searching something like ‘I think my child is being bullied’ will turn up hundreds of hits. Obviously just be careful and verify that you are getting information from a credible and knowledgeable source.

*Signs your child may be being bullied*

*Complete and comprehensive information about bullying*

*Assistance for parents of children with disabilities*

*NJ Coalition for Bullying and Awareness Prevention* (State specific)

*State bullying laws*

*The Bully Project’s resources for parents*


photo credit: First Lady O’Malley Address Armistead Gardens Students on Bullying via photopin (license)

photo credit: bully_show_archive (24 of 39) via photopin (license)

Another Mom’s Perspective…Trying to Find a Solution.

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We’re talking about the subject of bullying this week and I understand you have experience with this. Your child was bullied?
“Yes. My oldest son, who is now 15.”

What happened?
“The bullying actually started in about third grade. We moved up here (northeast Philadelphia) and he started to go to Fitzpatrick (school). He’s a very sensitive kid and an easy target, basically, for kids. He was bullied pretty bad by the kids. It got worse as he got older. I actually had to remove him from Fitzpatrick and put in Labrum. At one point, I had to take him to the emergency room because he went to shake the kids hand (who was bullying him). The kid wanted to play “ok, we’ll be friends” and shake his hand, and he squeezed his hand so hard he heard something snap as he twisted it behind his back.”

That’s horrible! This was in third grade?
“No, this was sixth grade. We sent him to the other school for seventh and eighth grade. I had had it at that point because the school will say they have this “no bullying tolerance” and that’s so not true. I understand that there are so many kids per school, and it’s probably hard to govern everyone, but it’s pretty bad. They have these “things” they like to call “ball tap Tuesday”. I had to go up to school cause he was kicked in the groin. The Vice Principal said to me, “Well, ya know, boys will be boys”. I said “Really!? That’s your mentality? Let’s just let them all kick each other in a very important organ and damage it cause boys will be boys!?” That was her mentality. I went above the Principal’s head to the Superintendent because it started to occur from a teacher as well. He (her son) was in computer class and he didn’t get to finish his project because the kids had pulled the plug on him. He went up to talk to the teacher and the teacher said “they’re only joking with ya.” That’s how you handle a situation? My son and his best friend proceeded to tell me that this teacher would even edge on a fight between students.”

Was anything ever done about the teacher?
“I think that they had taken him up for evaluation because I had written a letter to the superintendent.” I had actually talked to her on the phone and said to her “If you want, you can give me a job! I’ll let those kids do whatever they want to those computers. All the money the school district puts into the schools! I’ll let them destroy them if you want. Not a problem. If I can do whatever I want like that…”
Fitzpatrick was horrible. At one point, there was a boy who my son was having problems with. The boy had threatened to beat him with a baseball bat. I requested a sit down with his mother. They said they didn’t do that there. I said “You have to do that. That happens to be a Philadelphia School District rule and law. You cannot deny me that.” So rather than have a sit down, what they did was, instead of have her sit and talk to me, they had her talk to me on the phone. My whole objective was to allow her to know the way that he was acting. A lot of times our children act out of character when they’re not around us. You know, the mice will play. This kid was teaching his little sister how to curse and tell the kids that his mom was afraid of him, that he was gonna beat her up. All this crazy stuff, I guess, to make himself look better. So I was trying to explain this to her and the stuff with the baseball bat. She just said that he would never do that, he never talked like that. I told her I just wanted to let her know, that I felt it was my job as a parent to let her know. I would expect someone to let me know if my child was acting outrageous like that. She proceeded to tell me that she had seen text messages on her sons phone that my son was cursing at him. I said “Really? I thank you for letting me know. That’s something that I will handle.” When he came home I approached him about it. What’s funny is that my son is so much like me. If he doesn’t like someone, he won’t give them the time of day. He won’t go out of his way to bother them cause they’re just not worth it. So I approached him about the cursing and he said, “No Mom. I had his phone number for a day and I deleted it cause I don’t like him.” I believe him cause I would’ve done the same thing.”

Was the other mother able to offer you any proof, like screenshots of the texts? And why didn’t she call you to make you aware before you called her about the baseball bat threats?
“No. And the school wouldn’t let me meet with her. They requested the phone conversation. I even had an advocate at one point because by law through the school district if you’re having a problem with a child, you can have a sit down with the parent and they can’t deny you that. They really tried to deny me of that. I understand why. I’m sure that there are parents in this world that act worse than their children. So maybe they want to prevent violent outbreaks. But you have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.”

How did you help him when he’d come home after being bullied at school?
“I’d build him up and tell him all the time that kids that pick on other kids are jealous. They see something in you that either they don’t like about themselves or don’t have. My son’s just a genuinely nice kid and he’s sensitive.”

It’s terrible that you have to pull the kid that’s being bullied out of school, yet the kids that are doing the bullying get away with it.
“Yeah. When he was in sixth grade, the beginning of the school year, he was walking home and the eighth graders were throwing rocks at him. It’s so hard to get the school to do anything. At one point, the Vice Principal wouldn’t even call me back until after I wrote a letter to the superintendent. That’s when she paid me attention.”

Did this affect his grades?
“It did affect his grades.”

When you moved him to the new school in seventh grade, was it an instant change in him or did it take some time?
“It was kind of instant. I mean it took him time to get used to the school, to find people he could be friendly with. He was upset that he was leaving the other school because his best friend went there. And his best friend was bullied as well. He’s dealing with his own issues, as a teenager, with anger, due to that. It’s very sad.”

Did your son deal with any bullying at the new school?
“No. He didn’t deal with bullying there. I think there might’ve been one issue. I wrote a letter to the Principal and the Principal called me that day. It was handled. Labrum was great. His grades went up. He’s now in high school.”

There has always been bullying. When we were kids, there was certainly bullying. But it seems to have gotten worse. Why do you think that is?
“I think that people have just given up. Either parents aren’t paying attention, they’re acting that way themselves and it’s learned behavior or this child has a severe diagnosis like Oppositional Defiant Disorder and it’s not being taken care of. There could be different reasons for this behavior. And people are too busy. They’re too busy trying to have a life, run a household, then to put the time and effort into something that needs to be taken care of…”

Do you think bullying will ever stop or do you think it’ll always be part of our society?                             “I think it’s something that will probably always be a part of society. I think it could get better, in time, if people put in effort. I’m sure that it happened in the 20’s and even before that. But kids were petrified of their parents at one time. A lot of times people hit their kids if their kids weren’t acting correctly and you can’t do that anymore. Not that I hit my kids or believe in it. But the world is very, very different so kids tend to get away with a lot more. I’ll tell ya what, I couldn’t act any way I wanted in school! My mother did not accept that.”

Your son is doing well now?
“Yes. He’s a ninth grader now in an arts high school. He’s really doing awesome. He actually said to my mom that he’s really enjoying growing up. He said he feels like he’s around a bunch of “me’s”. I thought that was so funny, a great expression of how he felt.”

What advice would you give regarding somebody that’s being bullied, a parent or an administrator?
“Keep the lines of communication open with your child. My advice to administration is to take the issue serious. Don’t chalk it up to “boys will be boys” because there are kids out there committing suicide over being bullied! This needs to be taken a lot more seriously than they are.”

Ten Ways to Help Your Child Avoid Being a Victim of Online Bullies.

cyberbully1In the ever-changing world of technology, and with children becoming involved in tech and social media earlier and earlier, one of the most crucial places we need to be sure they are protected is online. In an effort to help give parents another resource in preventing cyberbullying, stalking, and online identity theft, we’ve provided a list of ten things you can do to help your children safely navigate the world of social media and the internet.

Ten Ways to Help Your Child Avoid Being a Victim of Online Bullies.
1. Lock it up. Protect all passwords and personal information online. Be sure your child knows never to give out this information out to anyone (anyone!) and store it in a safe place.

2. Friend or Foe. Let your child know that they should never be opening emails, texts or messages from people they don’t know or addresses they don’t recognize. They should be deleted immediately and without opening them. If it’s important, they’ll find another way to get in touch.

3. Privacy please. Take advantage of online privacy controls. Be sure to set controls on your kid’s accounts. Be sure that everything is password protected and marked private where possible. Be sure that online profiles on sites such as Facebook are viewable only to those who are approved by you or your child. Be sure that they know to ONLY approve people they know in “real life”.

4. Disconnect. Make sure your child is logging out after every session online. Don’t save passwords on web sites or in your web browser for convenience.

5. The Parent Test. Ask them to think for a moment before they post a photo of themselves on social media, or send one in a text, is it something they would be okay with showing you? If the answer is no, it’s probably not something they should be sharing online. Pictures don’t just go away, and people can easily copy what you post and use it to cause all sorts of problems.

6. Blocked. If someone whom your child does not know attempts to contact them or tries to give them a hard time, they should ignore the person. Be sure they know not to respond in any way. If possible, block the person on whatever forum they are contacting you.

7. Let it go. If someone is being mean to your child online, tell them to ignore it. Make sure they know NOT to retaliate. Many times, the lack of response alone is enough to stop the incidents from recurring.

8. Capture it. If ignoring them doesn’t work, capturing the information might. The good thing about technology in the case of harassment and bullying is that it can also benefit the victim. Save any texts or messages sent. Print out any emails that contain offensive or threatening material. Your kids can also screenshot any inappropriate, threatening or intimidating material sent via social media or text on their smart phone and present it to the appropriate people (parents, school staff, or even police) when the time is necessary. Together with your child, check the terms of service for whatever site(s) they are making contact through, and report any violations right away.

9. Communicate. Keep the lines of communication open. Tell your kids that they can come to you anytime with anything and you will assist them, and mean it.

10. Do unto others. Make sure your kids are using proper and appropriate online demeanor themselves. Monitor online activity, especially for younger kids. Know what social media accounts they have, and know their passwords. Be sure to go over the rules of using the internet often with your children. The internet is a wealth of entertainment and information for those who use it wisely. Be sure your kids are having the best online experience possible.

BULLYCOMPIt’s important to be sure that you are monitoring all of your child’s online activity. Be sure to only allow them access to age appropriate social media sites and networks. Each site has its own age restrictions and guidelines usually found in their terms of service, FAQ, or privacy policy area. Keep your kids safe and free to enjoy all of the positive aspects of the Internet, technology, and social media. Share these tips with other parents and parenting networks, and let’s all enjoy the online community without the fear of cyberbullying and threats.
*photo credit: Fixer Sophie Thorne via photopin (license)

No Mean Girls: A Company With a Positive Message and Goal- Make Every Girl Feel Special.

We’ve been talking about bullying for a few days now and we’ve heard a few different perspectives. Some people don’t have much experience first-hand, some do. In spite of a lack of personal involvement, everyone we’ve talked to understands that bullying is real, and it’s problematic. So what do you do? What do you do when faced with the problem of bullying in our society? You can vow not to bully others. You can vow to stand up for those who are bullied. And you can vow to help others feel good about themselves and feel confident in taking a stand against bullying. That’s exactly what No Mean Girls is trying to do.

NMGHOW DID ‘NO MEAN GIRLS’ GET STARTED?
It involves the story of a little girl named Tianna. She was playing in the park when she saw a heavy-set girl wearing a pair of eyeglasses, playing all by herself. There was a group of girls playing nearby, who were clearly ignoring the girl. The group welcomed Tianna to play but before joining them, Tianna first approached the girl who was playing alone and encouraged her to play too. When Tianna was asked by her grandmother why she approached the girl playing all alone in the park, her answer was “because she did not feel like a princess.” That is how the idea for the website’s name came to be, and how “No Mean Girls” was born.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR PRIMARY GOAL, YOUR MISSION STATEMENT?
“No Mean Girls” has a mission of putting an end to “mean girl” cliques. By encouraging young girls to put aside jealousy, pettiness and name calling, there will be no scenario where some girls are excluded from ‘inner circles’ or popular cliques.

YOU HAVE A WEBSITE, AND ADORABLE ‘NO MEAN GIRLS’ MERCHANDISE THAT IS AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE ON YOUR SITE. WHO COMES UP WITH THE DESIGN IDEAS FOR EVERYTHING?
The design ideas actually come from my granddaughter. She designs all of the merchandise.

WHO IS YOUR TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC?
Our ideal age group to reach is girls 6-11.

APART FROM YOUR MERCHANDISE, WHAT ELSE DOES ‘NO MEAN GIRLS’ DO?
No Mean Girls is far more than just a product line; it’s an international community of proud, confident young girls who have dedicated their time and energy to spreading the message of acceptance, friendship, and achievement to those who need it most. Whether they are sending hygiene care packages to underprivileged children in Africa or making friendship bracelets for orphaned girls across the world, the sparkling ambassadors in our ‘No Mean Girls’ tribe are changing the world for the better. When you support us by purchasing our products, we support the future generations of the world!

AND WHERE DO THE MERCHANDISE PROCEEDS GO?
100% of all ‘No Mean Girls’ product sales are poured into our Sparkle and Shine events, which are held across the world to develop our community of tolerance, acceptance, inner beauty, and friendship. We put on these events to teach others how to develop their self-esteem, overcome obstacles, and find their own path to happiness. Your support of our company means that you are supporting positive change for thousands of girls around the world.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO GET INVOLVED WITH ‘NO MEAN GIRLS’? HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE THEM TO PURCHASE YOUR MERCHANDISE?
Your support of the ‘No Mean Girls’ collection is immensely important; all of our product proceeds are used to improve and increase our events and initiatives around the globe. Many of us have experienced the kindness of others and understand how positive it can be in our lives; we want to pass along that same kindness to girls less fortunate than us through various donations, charitable activities, and our international Sparkle and Shine Events.
The cause of No Mean Girls is clear – creating a global mindset of unity, tolerance, friendship, and generosity so the next generation of young girls will be even stronger than the last. We use the proceeds from our product sales to fund our countless initiatives and events across the globe to inspire, connect, and uplift girls everywhere. By purchasing our stylish and inspiring No Mean Girls products, you can play an active role in positively shaping the future.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER ANTI-BULLYING GROUPS THAT YOU RECOMMEND PEOPLE EXPLORE?We like ‘Mean Stinks’ and ‘Stomp Out Bullying’.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR PEOPLE TO REACH OUT TO YOU, NOT FOR MERCHANDISE, BUT FOR INFORMATION OR ASSISTANCE?
People can find us online at nomeangirls.net or contact us at 936-697-2310. We are also on Facebook and Twitter.
*From No Mean Girls Twitter profile: No Mean Girls has a mission of putting an end to mean girl cliques, and helping foster positive #selfesteem and #antibullying.*

WHAT DO YOU SAY OR DO IN YOUR OWN LIFE TO DEMONSTRATE TO KIDS THAT TEASING, HARASSING OR BULLYING OTHERS IS THE WRONG THING TO DO?
I’m now a grandmother but I still teach my grandkids what I taught my daughter, that being mean to others is not cool. I guess that’s why my daughter has taught my grandkids to treat others with empathy and compassion. My granddaughter hates to see other people sad and she goes out of her way to make others feel special in her presence. Her favorite person is Martin Luther Kind Jr and she says she can’t wait to meet him one day in Heaven. She is just an awesome kid!

These are the ‘No Mean Girls’ mascots, designed to help us motivate and encourage girls. MNG2     NMG4

NMG3NMG1

YOU CAN TAKE THE ‘NO MEAN GIRLS’ PLEDGE HERE.

A Mother Speaks: The Pain of Having a Child Who’s Being Bullied.

Over the past couple of days we have spoken to a teenage girl and a teenage boy about bullying. If you missed those perspectives, you’ll definitely want to check them out here and here. And while the teens we spoke to were lucky enough to have a very limited first-hand knowledge of bullying, not everyone is so lucky.

As parents we can attest that the number one thing you think about when you let go of your child’s tiny hand the first time you send them off to school is, are they going to be able to keep my baby safe? Are they going to be able to care for them the way that I would?
The last thing a parent wants to think about is someone else causing their child pain. Unfortunately, it happens. And we spoke to a women who has been there…

HOW OLD ARE YOUR KIDS?
My daughter is 14 and my son is 9.

HAVE YOU HAD ANY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH BULLIES?
Unfortunately, yes. My son, who has special needs, has been bullied in school on a couple of different occasions. Actually, the one time I am not even sure I would call it bullying. That was back in first grade. Kids could see or sense or somehow know even at that age, that he was just a bit different from them. I guess some people just naturally hone in on that and some don’t. Plenty of kids treated him exactly like all the other kids, but there was one or two that consistently pointed out any little difference between themselves and my son.

AND ANOTHER TIME AS WELL?
Yes again at the beginning of the current school year.

WHY DO YOU SAY THAT YOU ONLY CONSIDERED ONE OF THESE ACTUALLY BULLYING?
Well, the stuff that was going on in first grade, I think that was just these kids not really understanding who my son was and not knowing any better. I don’t think that their parents ever explained to them that there are people who are different, that not everyone is the same and you’re going to encounter people who aren’t like you. I have aways taught both my kids that. I tell them to embrace what is different about others and learn from it. Don’t make someone feel bad about who they are. But I guess not everyone is the same in that respect either.

WHAT HAPPENED THE SECOND TIME? HOW WAS IT DIFFERENT?
The second time around, he had gotten past all of the first grade stuff and was really getting along well with everyone in his classes. But he kept coming home really just down looking. He is a happy kid. He’s always smiling and having fun. So, to see him come home sad-faced every day for like a week was odd. I thought maybe he was sick, but he had no fever, no cough, no sore throat, nothing. So, I kept an eye. That second week he started getting upset when it was time to go to school, which was just unheard of for him. I knew something was going on at school at that point.

SO WHAT DID YOU? HOW DID YOU PROCEED?
Called the school and told them exactly what I had observed.

AND WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT DID THEY DO?
They asked a bunch of questions and brought my son down to the counselor. They had to call his case worker because he has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and they are supposed to be involved. They also brought in his classroom teacher to see if she was aware of anything. She had noticed too that he seemed a little down but when she asked him if he was alright, he said, “yes” and she left it alone at that point. He never said anything to anyone else.

SO HOW DID YOU FIND OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON?
We dug. We met with the whole team, the principal, counselor, teacher, case worker, everyone. I think in hindsight we may have pressured him too much to tell us what was wrong, but I was so worried. The things that go through your head are nothing short of insane! What is going on with my kid?! Is he ill, like the kind of ill you can’t see? Is he being bullied? Molested? You really can’t imagine where the mind goes. So, I felt like we had to know. We only got out of him that someone, a boy, was giving him a hard time at school. And we had a name. It wasn’t until the boy was brought into the fold, and eventually his parents, that we got to the real meat of the issue.
As it turned out this boy and another little boy had been calling my son names, the kind of names kids call each other not even thinking that they are as offensive and hurtful as they are- stupid, idiot, retarded, gay, etc.
The older boy of the two, one was in 5th grade and one in 4th, eventually admitted to this and a bunch of other stuff including taking my son’s lunch and hiding it in a different spot every day for 2 weeks, not letting him sit down on the bus (until the bus driver was yelling at him), taking items from his desk and throwing them away, etc.

AND WHAT WAS THE REACTION TO THESE REVELATIONS?
He seemed to feel like he was just being a practical joker. He said he had no idea that it was hurting my son so much. The staff was pretty supportive, I think largely because they really dropped the ball on this one. This kid was really tormenting my child day in and day out right under their noses for weeks. Luckily, the boy’s parents were having no parts of any excuses he had. They were mortified.

DID YOU INITIALLY FEAR THEIR REACTION?
I did. You never know if they are going to take the “not my child” approach. If they’re going to make excuses, or if they’ll even do anything about it. But they, particularly the mother, were very understanding and apologetic. I remember the mom kept saying in the meeting, “I don’t understand, I know he knows better.” She must have said that ten times. I actually felt a little bad.

WHY DID YOU FEEL BAD FOR HER?
I think because she is a mom too and people automatically assume that bullying is the result of bad parenting. And I really don’t think that was the case here. I don’t know what other factors are at work, I am not an expert, but they seemed to be very loving and involved parents. For me, I felt a camaraderie almost, because she was essentially suffering knowing that her child had inflicted pain on someone else. She felt like a failure. And I felt like one too for not being able to protect my son.

SO WHAT LESSON WOULD YOU SAY WAS LEARNED HERE?
Well, I learned that you can’t protect your kids 100% of the time. I also learned that in this day and age you really have to watch the signs and cues that your kids give you. The nonverbal stuff. Kids lack vital communication skills these days. And when you add in a child who is not overly communicative to begin with, it’s even harder. I also learned that you can’t really judge people’s parenting. And I know my son learned that he has to speak up and tell someone if he is feeling intimidated or harassed. And if he is scared, we need to know. And I think really importantly, the boy who had been bullying my son learned something too. He learned that it’s not okay to harass someone just for being different. And he learned that it’s actually much nicer and cooler to stand beside someone who is a little different and misunderstood rather than to try to act tough because you don’t understand someone.

YOU’RE VERY LUCKY TO HAVE HAD SUCH A POSITIVE OUTCOME ALL THE WAY AROUND.
We really were. I was very scared at first. You hear so many stories on the news. It doesn’t always get tied up so neatly for everyone though. It’s rarely a happy ending all the way around. That is why I think attention and focus need to stay on it. There are parents burying their children because of this. I am beyond fortunate that I am not one of them. I am fortunate that our incident of bullying wasn’t near what some kids endure. My son got his happy ending and my daughter has not had to endure anything like this. I’ll tell anyone and everyone my story just to remind them that it happens and that it may be happening right under your nose.

Modern Day Bullying: A Teenage Boy’s Perspective

Yesterday we talked to a 13-year-old girl about bullying. Today, we thought we’d ask a 13-year-old boy the same questions and see if there is a gender gap when it comes to the perception of, and means of handling, bullying in today’s society. If you missed yesterday’s post, do check it out here.

BULLY4HOW OLD ARE YOU AND WHAT GRADE ARE YOU IN?
13. In 7th.

DO YOU SEE MUCH BULLYING, MUCH OF KIDS PICKING ON EACH OTHER AT SCHOOL?
I guess. I mean not always AT school, but there are kids that do get bullied outside of school or wherever.

YOUR SCHOOL IS 6TH-8TH GRADES?
Yeah.

WHAT GRADE DO YOU THINK IT HAPPENS IN THE MOST?
I guess all the same really. I mean 6th graders might try to pull some stuff to act cool and 8th graders do the same. Trying to I guess intimidate the 6th and 7th graders because they’re older and getting ready to leave for high school. Probably the least is my grade. 7th graders are in the middle. They don’t care.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
7th graders have already gotten used to it there so they don’t need to act cool or get people to like them because they’re not new. And they’re not really gonna mess with the 8th graders that much.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT MEANS TO BULLY SOMEONE?
Just picking on them I guess. Calling them names. Threatening them or trying to fight with them. Making fun of them for stuff that you probably shouldn’t be.

LIKE WHAT KIND OF STUFF? CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF THAT? (This question and the following were not asked of our 13-year-old girl)
I don’t know, like last year this kid’s mom died. Actually she died a long time ago but for some reason people started messing with him about not having a mom.

THAT IS A PRETTY MEAN THING TO PICK ON SOMEONE ABOUT, DO YOU AGREE?
Yeah. That’s why mostly all of his friends stuck up for him right away. He actually punched the one kid who kept saying stuff about his mom and he wound up getting suspended. So like 6 of his friends went to the office and told them that he was only defending himself, but he still got suspended because they said he shouldn’t have hit the kid, he should have gotten a teacher or something.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN PEOPLE SAY THAT IS JUST “NORMAL” KID BEHAVIOR, THAT IT’S JUST KIDS BEING KIDS?
Not all kids act like that and the ones that do give a bad name to the ones that know better.

WHEN I WAS YOUNGER KIDS TEASED EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME AND IT ALWAYS BLEW OVER AND EVERYTHING WAS FORGIVEN USUALLY IN A DAY OR TWO. DO YOU THINK IT’S HARDER FOR KIDS NOW?
Kids don’t wanna look weak in front of their friends or whatever. That’s why when someone says something usually you’re gonna fight back even if you don’t want to. Most of the time you’re friends again if you were before but if it’s someone you never really liked or hung out with, you’re just gonna walk away and not talk.

WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET- CYBERBULLYING AND THAT STUFF, DO YOU SEE THAT?
I see it. I mean people post stuff on each others kik and Instagram and stuff if they don’t like you. They might put up stuff, but you can take it down. I know there are kids out there who have been bullied really bad. I guess my friends just aren’t into that.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THAT STUFF THOUGH? WHY IS IT WORSE TO BE BULLIED NOWADAYS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA AND ONLINE?
I don’t know if it’s worse but everyone can see it. Like if someone comes up to you after school, a few people might see it or whatever, but if someone puts it on kik or tweets something about you, a lot more people are gonna see that.

DID YOU SEE MORE BULLYING WHEN YOU WERE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL OR NOW THAT YOU ARE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL?
I think I’ve seen more actual fights because little kids don’t really fight as much. There was a big fight on the first day of 6th grade and the first day of 7th grade. But I only remember one fight in elementary school, that was in 5th. You’re younger so you don’t think about that stuff, you just want to hang out with your friends, ride your bikes, or whatever.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN EXPERIENCING MUCH BULLYING IN YOUR CIRCLE OF FRIENDS WHICH IS A GOOD THING. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
I guess we wouldn’t really be friends if we didn’t like each other. And you’re not gonna bully someone who’s your friend.

WHAT ABOUT ONLINE? I KNOW YOU’RE SOCIAL MEDIA IS LIMITED AT 13, BUT DO YOU SEE MUCH OF IT GOING ON THERE?
Nah. I mean, you see mean stuff and a lot of bad jokes but I don’t see that much bullying.

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK ABOUT BULLYING?
None of my friends are into that stuff.

WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY KIDS RECENTLY HAVE TRIED HURTING THEMSELVES OR EVEN KILLING THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY WERE BEING BULLIED FOR A LONG TIME?
I guess they couldn’t deal with it. I guess if it gets that bad that someone is messing with you every single day and you don’t even want to go to school anymore or go out, they’re probably thinking they have no reason to live. Maybe they don’t have anyone to talk to about it. They maybe can’t tell their parents so they can help them and instead they decide to do that.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM IF YOU COULD, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM TO DO?
That they probably have friends that have their back. And if they don’t they really need to tell their parents because your parents are gonna help you no matter what you do. And if they really don’t want to do that, they should talk to some other adult that can find someone to help them. Because they’re going to be sorry someday that they cut their life so short for nothing.

DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS MORE BULLYING BETWEEN GIRLS AND GIRLS, BOYS AND BOYS, BOYS AND GIRLS, OR IS IT ALL THE SAME?
Boys probably fight more. They try to look cool. Girls always have drama going on but they usually are just talking behind each others backs or whatever and then the next day they are best friends. Probably more boy bullies. Actually, I don’t know. I feel like boys have better stuff to do than that like they can’t be bothered and girls like to act mean to other girls.

Remember to view yesterday’s interview to see how the male vs female teen perspective varies. And check back for more about bullies, bullying, and support all week-long.

*photo credit: THINK before you via photopin (license)

Modern Day Bullying: A Teenage Girl’s Perspective.

BULLY2Bullying is nothing new. For as long as there has been interaction between people there have always been instances where one person or group tries to harass, intimidate, or exert authority over another. When we were kids, we never really called it anything. It had no name. Sure, we knew what a bully was, but that title was reserved for the worst of the worst repeat offenders. When we were kids if we got picked on, called names or teased, usually we were told to suck it up, take it like a man (if applicable) or fight back. Typically, nine times out of ten, the whole thing would blow over in a couple of weeks, maybe more quickly than that.

Today, bullying is a buzz-word. It’s a trending topic on Twitter. It’s the subject of documentaries and after school specials (or whatever the modern-day equivalent is). If kids and teens have it easier in many ways today than they did when we were young, thanks to iPhones, computers, later curfews, and cooler stuff, then they also have a tougher road when it comes to bullying. Today, if a kid wants to hurt or discredit you, they don’t walk up to you on the street and call you names, they post it on their ‘wall’. Instead of teasing you, they put nasty rumors or pictures of you on the internet for the world to see. Bullying has evolved. The modern-day bully uses social media and technology to taunt their victims, to gain their own popularity, and a host of other reasons. The problem is, most of the time, bullies grow up. People mature and move on. Back in the day, these things were long forgotten by the time we were out on our own. Today’s victims, and even today’s bullies, are forced to live with the repercussions of these situations for years to come. What’s out there is out there for good. You can hit delete on a mean tweet, erase a nasty post, or trash an unflattering photo, but the truth is, those things never really go away. They exist somewhere… somewhere out there in the world, forever.

BULLY1HOW OLD ARE YOU AND WHAT GRADE ARE YOU IN?
I’m 13 and in 7th grade.

DO YOU SEE MUCH BULLYING, MUCH OF KIDS PICKING ON EACH OTHER AT SCHOOL?
Not much. A little.

YOUR SCHOOL IS 6TH-8TH GRADES?
Yeah.

WHAT GRADE DO YOU THINK IT HAPPENS IN THE MOST?
Probably 6th grade.

THAT’S SURPRISING. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
I think 6th graders are new to middle school. They maybe are trying to look cool or fit in and don’t know how.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT MEANS TO BULLY SOMEONE?
Calling people names, hitting, saying mean stuff about someone, spreading rumors, that kind of stuff.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN PEOPLE SAY THAT IS JUST “NORMAL” KID BEHAVIOR, THAT IT’S JUST KIDS BEING KIDS?
I don’t think it’s ever okay to be like that to anyone. That’s not what being a kid is. Kids hang out and have fun and do stuff. They aren’t supposed to hurt people and act mean on purpose.

WHEN I WAS YOUNGER KIDS TEASED EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME AND IT ALWAYS BLEW OVER AND EVERYTHING WAS FORGIVEN USUALLY IN A DAY OR TWO. DO YOU THINK IT’S HARDER FOR KIDS NOW?
Now it’s easier to say stuff behind a screen or on an app than to say it to people’s face. They can just say stuff and then delete it like it never happened. Being behind the screen makes you feel like you can say stuff you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THAT STUFF THOUGH? WHY IS IT EVEN WORSE TO BE BULLIED NOWADAYS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA AND ONLINE?
People can screenshot what they say and show it to people or put it on their walls and stuff. And it’s out there forever.

DID YOU SEE MORE BULLYING WHEN YOU WERE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL OR NOW THAT YOU ARE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL?
Not really more in elementary school. Well, I mean maybe a little bit but no one really took it seriously. It wasn’t about serious stuff. Elementary school kids are less mature so they might do stuff  that is now considered bullying but really at that age they don’t know better.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN EXPERIENCING MUCH BULLYING IN YOUR CIRCLE OF FRIENDS WHICH IS A GOOD THING. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
We all know each other. We all grew up together and we live in the same neighborhood. Not everyone is friends, but no one really bullies anyone. Even if you fight, you make up.

WHAT ABOUT ONLINE? I KNOW YOU’RE SOCIAL MEDIA IS LIMITED AT 13, BUT DO YOU SEE MUCH OF IT GOING ON THERE?
Not really. Not a lot. Not with my friends, but with other people that I don’t really know.

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK ABOUT BULLYING?
That people shouldn’t have to hurt others to try to make themselves feel better.

WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY KIDS RECENTLY HAVE TRIED HURTING THEMSELVES OR EVEN KILLING THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY WERE BEING BULLIED FOR A LONG TIME?
They probably thought that it was so out of hand that no one would ever forget what was said about them. They probably thought that it would never end, not really thinking that stuff like that usually goes away.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM IF YOU COULD, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM TO DO?
No matter how bad it seems, I really believe it will get better. Ignore as much as you can. Delete the comments. Walk away. Talk to an adult.

DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS MORE BULLYING BETWEEN GIRLS AND GIRLS, BOYS AND BOYS, BOYS AND GIRLS, OR IS IT ALL THE SAME?
Girls. Girls and girls because they always have more drama!

Tomorrow we’ll find out if the boys agree with that sentiment when we speak to a 7th grade boy to get his perspective on these same questions.

*photo credit: ng2_5122 via photopin (license)